Why Puducherry? Ranji winner Sheldon Jackson opens up

Ranji Trophy winner Sheldon Jackson’s sudden move to Puducherry came as a surprise for Saurashtra, but it’s a fresh start and a journey of self-discovery.

Sheldon Jackson helped Saurashtra to its maiden Ranji Trophy title this year.   -  Vijay Soneji

In the past, several star domestic players have moved from their respective state teams to play as a professional. Sheldon Jackson’s departure to Puducherry isn’t a surprise, but the timing of the exit is.

The 33-year-old, however, describes his farewell appearance for Saurashtra, which led the side to its maiden Ranji Trophy title in March, as the “icing on the cake”.

Saurashtra will miss Jackson’s X factor but for the cricketer, it is an alternate journey to self-discovery. Over the years, the handsome performances for his state did not earn him a berth at the higher level. He had even taken on the BCCI senior selection committee on Twitter for not including players from Saurashtra in India A despite consistent performances.

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With his plea falling to deaf ears, he had to chalk out his own roadmap.

It may not fast-track Jackson into a superstar — it will rather be tough to be noticed as Puducherry is a new side and that too in the Plate Division — but he will have fresh perspectives in the remaining years of his career. And this wasn’t an overnight decision.

“I could leave on a personal high due to the Ranji win. There was no problem, it’s just that I was looking to move out for a long time. There were a few options on the table, even last year, but I was not too sure. So this year, before the season started, I had decided I would move out,” Jackson told Sportstar.

Jackson is a senior player in the domestic setup with 5,634 first-class runs and 19 hundreds. He has been scoring 800+ runs for two seasons in a row.

But why Puducherry and not an Elite Division side? Is it the money?

“The thing is wherever I would go, the finances would have to have been good or else I wouldn’t leave Saurashtra. That is a primary concern but the vision that they had was very clear, about what my role is going to be and what they wanted from me. I also know quite a few players from there, I have played with Paras Dogra and Pankaj Singh in the Chennai League.

“I wanted to go to such a place where I would be in my zone from the first game. You already have a lot of bonding with them, so that helps,” he added.

Jackson’s heart will still lie with Saurashtra and he is keen to understand if he fits the bill for the hyperlocal Saurashtra Premier League. “If I am applicable to play SPL, then I will. If I am not, then I can think of other leagues and the options available. According to BCCI, you can play any one league. My first choice would always be SPL,” he said.

There is still no clarity on the Indian domestic season 2020-21 and thus, Jackson is still far away from padding up for Puducherry.

READ | Saurashtra yet to plan for domestic camp

Coach Niraj Odedra accepts that the team will miss Jackson in the initial games of the next season, but they will find a replacement.

“If you look at his age, he could have continued for two more years. But he wasn’t going anywhere. They were not considering him for the Test team. I think he may have left for money, so good luck to him.

“He was a senior player and scored 800 runs every season, his absence might affect us. You have to look at his contributions. No coach would like it if somebody leaves like that, but then, we have so many youngsters who can be groomed to take his place,” he said.

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